F. Austin had personally appealed to Deaf Smith for his services
in the upcoming siege
of Bexar, but Smith refused. He was comfortable in both the
Anglo and Mexican cultures and neutral in the battle for Texas independence.
His attitude changed when Mexican soldiers, on high alert for Texians,
refused to let him and Arnold, a free black and later a member of
Smith's spy company, back in town to see their families.
Deaf Smith wasn't neutral anymore. He wrote to Austin: "I told you
yesterday that I would not take sides in the war but, Sir, I now
tender you my services as the Mexicans acted rascally with me."
Santa Anna's army would
have had a much easier time of it in the upcoming months if they
had been less rascally.
Smith went to work primarily as a spy but also as a soldier for
the Texians. He gathered crucial intelligence for the Battle of
Concepcion and later spied a mule train that might have been carrying
gold and currency to pay the Mexican army. James Bowie and some
others decided to attack it, resulting in what's known as the Grass
War because the wagon train carried no gold or currency - just grass
for the soldiers' horses.
Smith took part in the siege of his adopted hometown of Bexar and
was wounded there not far from where another Texas patriot, Ben
Milam, was killed. He took his family to Columbia but continued
to serve the Texas cause. He served as a courier at the
Alamo, delivering William Barrett Travis' famous "Victory or
Later, he endured the task of relaying to Sam
Houston in Gonzales
the fate of the Alamo
Smith in charge of new recruits at Gonzales.
The volunteers under his command acted as sort of a special forces
outfit, fighting like soldiers and gathering intelligence like spies.
Smith captured a Mexican courier at Harrisburg who carried with
him detailed dispatches about where Santa
Anna's soldiers and artillery were located and how many were
at the various locations. That information had a lot to do with
of when and where to attack.
On April 21, 1836, when Houston's
troops surprised Santa Anna at San
Jacinto, Smith and his men destroyed Vince's Bridge, making
retreat or reinforcements impossible for both sides. It was a do-or-die
kind of act.
After the war, the Republic
of Texas gave Smith a prime piece of property -complete with
a house - in downtown San
Antonio, but he and his family stayed in Columbia where he raised
a group of Texas Rangers to run a band of renegade Mexicans out
He moved to Richmond
soon afterwards and died there on Nov. 30, 1873.
Upon hearing of his death, Houston
wrote: "My Friend Deaf Smith, and my stay in darkest hour, Is no
more!!! A man more brave and honest man never, lived. His soul is
with God, but his fame and his family, must command the care of
Smith's passion for the Texas cause had little to do with politics.
An officer during the siege
of Bexar wrote Austin that Smith was "perfectly disinterested."
Reluctant warrior that he was, Smith was as fierce and loyal a soldier
as the Texians had.
Deaf Smith County
is named for him, and, for a time, Arrowhead Mills named its organic
Deaf Smith Peanut Butter for the man and the county.
And to think - if the Mexican soldiers had been less rascally with
Deaf Smith on his way home that night, Sam
Houston and history would have never known what a good man Deaf
Smith was to have on your side.
© Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas"
February 21, 2016 column